Here’s a question we get asked from time to time. Why should I use a travel agent?
In this information age that we live in today, anyone can search for travel on the internet and book their own vacation without the help of an agent.
But here’s the problem. If you type “cruise vacation” into a search engine you will get millions of pages. Even if you narrow it down to say “Alaskan cruise” or “Caribbean cruise”, you will still get thousands.
So where do you start? If you are a veteran cruiser, you may know just what you want. But how do you know you are getting the best deal?
The travel providers (the cruise lines, tour operators, hotels, and resorts) have set prices. Because the travel providers consider travel agents as their principle distribution system, they provide special discounts and value-added amenities that are not always provided to internet sites.
Large travel agency groups such as Cruise Planners/American Express often reserve large blocks of cabins which allows for extra discounts and added values.
How do agents get paid? Do they have to charge more for a trip to pay for their service?
Travel providers build in a commission to their price and that is what is paid to agents who sell their product.
You, as the consumer, do not pay more, or less, depending on whether or not you use an agent. Travel providers do not allow agents or online sellers to take less commission and sell the product for less.
If you do book online or directly with the cruise line, the person you talk to (if it is a live person) is just an order taker. They do not take the time to get to know you or find out if this is the best vacation for you and your family. And for little or no effort they get that same commission-no discount for you.
If you use a travel agent professional, they will ask about you, your family, what type of trip you are looking for, where have traveled in the past, where have you always wanted to go to, what is your budget.
They will advise you on the best destinations for the activities you and your family like to do and the best time to travel there for weather considerations as well as crowds. And they will do all of this for that same commission as the order takers.
If you book online and find a better price latter, those online order takers may prove to be very unfriendly and even less helpful.
A good agent can use this to get their costumer an upgrade or other added amenity. And if you have a problem at the time of travel, you need to know where you are going to go for help.
Say you arrive at the cruise terminal and the cruise line can’t find your reservation or you arrive at a resort and they don’t have a room for you. Good luck calling that online order taker and getting them to help you.
A good travel agent will always make sure you know who to contact if you have a problem. An agent can call directly to the travel provider and get things corrected immediately.
These are all services an agent provides and does not charge extra for.
Travel is often the third largest expense for a family (behind their home and autos). When it comes time to plan your next vacation, let a travel professional help you.
Their job is to help you find the perfect vacation that fits into you budget and they don’t charge for their services.
Remember, you only get one chance to get your vacation right, and if it isn’t right, you can’t send it back like that pair of shoes you ordered online.
Mike Bailey is an occasional guest columnist and is co-owner of Cruise Planners of OKC located in Piedmont.
You can reach Cruise Planners, at 758-5971 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.CruisePalnnersOfOKC.com